Martin Kaymer earned his first victory in around 4 years as many European stars shined in the Italian Open.
Kaymer carded a second round of 63 at Gardagolf to finish 11 under par, but the entire field will be separated by just seven shots heading into the weekend.
“It’s been a while since I played that solid,” Kaymer said (h/t ESPN).
“I think I was getting very close recently but that positivity was missing on the golf course because I haven’t had a lot of good results.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve won majors and had the situations I had at the Ryder Cup, it’s really exciting to be in a position that you can win a golf tournament again.”
Graeme McDowell experienced his last win back in 2015. McDowell was named as a Ryder Cup vice-captain last week but still of qualifying for the team instead, as he missed that opportunity back in 2016.
“My head will be down this weekend and I will be grinding really hard,” McDowell said.
“There’s a lot of really great players in this field.
“I’ll have to play well to win. It would do a lot for me, would do a lot for my summer, a lot for my Ryder Cup bid and a lot for my confidence in general.”
Danny Willett added a 67 to his opening 65 and has yet to drop a shot this week.
“I haven’t made a cut for a while so to actually be this side of the leaderboard is pretty nice,” Willett said.
“I’ve been working really hard and I’ve not been getting any results and you just have to keep your head down and hope that you get a couple of days like this under your belt.”
Tiger Woods Delays Surgery to Play, Says Recovery Ahead of Schedule
Tiger Woods put off surgery on his left knee to repair minor cartilage last fall and opted instead to have it this past August so that he could continue to play, but admitted the knee had been bothering him most of the 2019 year.
“It just kind of deteriorated over the year,” Woods said on Monday, according to ESPN’s Bob Harig. “It’s one of the reasons we were planning on doing it last year. But I screwed up by winning the Tour Championship [in September 2018], and I thought I could keep it rolling.
“It affected the way my back was feeling and my practice schedule. I’ve been down this road. That was my fifth [knee] operation. It’s been nice to have it moving again and not have it catch and lock up. A lot of wear and tear over the year. It’s been stressed out for a very long time, and it was nice having it cleaned up.”
Woods added that he is ahead of schedule in his recovery, saying that he had planned to have the procedure in the days following the Tour Championship, which he did not qualify for; “Instead I had it the week of the Tour Championship,” Woods commented. “The whole idea was to be ready for this event, the Hero World Challenge and possibly Australia.”
“The way I was feeling toward the middle part of the year, it was going to be a tall order to do it all. I was struggling waking, it affected my back, reading putts. I’m excited about having this end-of-the-year run. Feeling much more fit. I don’t have the achiness I had the last couple of years.”
“I want to be fit and ready for the end of the year,” Woods said. “Been battling through this year. Nice to get over the hump and start feeling good again and go at it full speed.”
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Rory McIlroy Agrees with Brooks Koepka in Regards to Rivalry
Rory McIlroy agrees with Brooks Koepka that the two were not true rivals despite some commentary to the contrary.
McIlroy, 30, was asked about Koepka’s comments Monday afternoon during the broadcast of The Challenge: Japan Skins, saying that Koepka had a point in his comments.
“What Brooks said wasn’t wrong,” McIlroy said, according to ESPN’s Bob Harig.
“He’s been the best player in the world for the last couple of years. Four majors. Don’t think he had to remind me that I haven’t won one in a while. I love Brooks. He’s a great guy. He’s super competitive like we all are. I see where he’s coming from.”
Ahead of last week’s CJ Cup in South Korea , Koepka was asked about the rivalry by the Agency French Press, and had some noteworthy comments.
“I’ve been out here for — what? — five years,” Koepka said in response. “Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I just don’t view it as a rivalry. I’m No. 1 in the world. I’ve got an open road ahead of me. I’m not looking in the rear-view mirror, so I’m not seeing it as a rivalry.”
“I said a couple of things after the Tour Championship as I approached the final round as a little bit of a rivalry because he got one over on me in Memphis,” McIlroy said. “And I sort of wanted to get him back. I think it’s good for the game. I think if you take what Brooks said out of context, it can become this big thing that it’s become.
“But Brooks and I are good friends. I’ve been really happy for him to see how he’s played over the last couple of years.”
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Tiger Woods Finishes Second to Jason Day
The Challenge: Japan Skins saw Jason Day walk off with over $200,000 and the victory, while Tiger Woods finished second.
“He hasn’t won one yet, so I’ve got that on him, which is good,” Day said of Woods, according to ESPN’s Bob Harig. “I found that out today when he told me. But this is nice, the back and forth was great, it was nice and clean and it was within the game, and I think the guys had fun out there.”
The Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club hosted the event that also featured Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama, among many others.
GolfTV, in a sponsorship deal with Woods, streamed the event worldwide.
“I did not play well at the beginning,” Woods said. “I hit a lot of bad shots and did not putt well. Once I got into the flow of competing and feeling the round, it just got exciting. We were competitive, the banter was great, the back and forth.”
“It was just great to be part of something like this,” McIlroy said. “It was a fun way to kick off the week.”
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